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What is Pancreatitis?


Pancreatitis is an inflammatory condition of the pancreas that is painful and at times deadly. Each year in the U.S., nearly 220,000 people will be afflicted with acute pancreatitis, and more than 80,000 people will be diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis. Despite the great advances in critical care medicine over the past 20 years, the mortality rate of acute pancreatitis has remained at about five percent.

Diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis is often difficult, and treatment is frequently delayed. Patients with chronic pancreatitis often endure severe pain and malnutrition, and have a higher risk of pancreatic cancer.

About Pancreatitis

In the United States, the most common cause of acute pancreatitis is gallstones. Other causes include chronic alcohol consumption, hereditary conditions, trauma, medications, infections, high lipid levels, hormonal abnormalities, and tumors that obstruct the pancreatic duct.

The treatment is usually supportive and may require a prolonged stay in an intensive care unit. Research is required to find medications that can reduce the severity of the acute inflammation.

Chronic pancreatitis is the progressive disorder associated with the destruction of the pancreas. The disease is more common in men and usually develops in people between 30 and 40 years of age. The most common causes are chronic alcohol consumption, hereditary diseases, genetic mutations, autoimmune conditions, and conditions that obstruct the pancreatic duct. The most common symptoms are diarrhea and upper abdominal pain. Patients can also develop malnutrition, weight loss, diabetes mellitus, and pancreatic cancer.


While there are new initiatives in pancreatic research by the NIDDK including endoscopic clinical research in pancreatic and biliary diseases, pathophysiology, and a large clinical study in hereditary pancreatitis, there is still much work to be done. 
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